tv Charlie Rose PBS June 17, 2013 11:30pm-12:30am EDT
captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: thank you for this opportunity on father's day as you're about to go to ireland for the g-8 conference. it's been an extraordinary week. >> yeah. >> rose: syria, iranian elections, demonstrations in turkey, n.s.a. questions. so i want to talk about all of that. >> right. >> rose: let me begin with elections in iran. >> right. >> rose: how do you read them? 75 p-blg of the people voted. the moderate won. what does this say and what are the opportunities there? >> well, i think it says that the iranian people want to move in a different direction and, you know if you contrast this with the violence and
suppression that happened in the last presidential election, obviously you have a much more positive atmosphere this time. the iranian people rebuffed the hard liners and the clerics in the election who were counseling no compromise on anything, any time, anywhere. clearly you have a hunger within iran to engage with the international community in a more positive way. now, mr. rouhani, who won the election, i think indicated his interests in shifting how iran approaches many of these international questions. but i think we understand that under their system the supreme leader will be making a lot of decisions. and so we're going to have to continue to see how this develops and how this evolves over the next several weeks, months, years. i do think that there's a
possibility that they decide-- the iranians decide-- to take us up on our offer to engage in a more serious, substantive way. and, you know, our bottom lines have been show the international community that you're abide big international treaties and obligations, that you're not developing a nuclear weapon. based on that there are a whole range of measures that can be taken to try to normalize the relationship between iran and the world. but we don't know yet if they're going to be willing to take up that offer. they have not been during my entire first term when we showed ourselves open to these discussions. >> rose: you're prepared to have someone in your administration talk to them immediately or does it have to be conditioned on other things as you subjected? >> no, i think that my general view is we are open to discussions-- both through the
35 plus -- p 5 plus 1 and through potential bilateral channels and we recognize that you're not going to solve problems all up front as a precondition for talks but there has to be a serious recognition that the sanctions we put in place, for example, the most powerful sanctions, economic sanctions that have ever been applied against iran, that those will not be lifted in the absence of significant steps in showing the international community that iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon. and as long as there's an understanding about the basis of the conversation, then i think there's no reason why we shouldn't proceed. >> rose: let me turn to syria. define the new policy that you are articulating with respect to syria and why now? >> i'm not sure you can characterize this as a new policy. this is consistent with the policy that i've had throughout.
remember how this evolved. the president of syria, assad, was presented with peaceful protestors in the wake of the arab spring. he responded with violence and suppression and that has continued to escalate. and the united states has humanitarian interests in the region, we've seen at least 100,000 people slaughtered inside of syria, many of them women, children, innocent civilians. and the united states always has an interest in preventing that kind of bloodshed when possible. we have a regional interest because we now have, for example, more than 500,000 syrian refugees in neighboring jordan. jordan is a strong ally of ours. we do not want to see jordan destabilized as a consequence of what's happening in syria. we're also seeing iraq affected,
lebanon obviously affected. so we have regional interests and finally we've got a direct interest when it comes to chemical weapons. we've got a strong taboo that's been established in the international community against using weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons. and what developed over several months was high confidence that the assad regime had used chemical weapons. and i had been very clear that if we saw the use of chemical weapons taking place by the regime inside of syria that that would change my calculus. and it has. now, in terms of what my goals are. the goals are a stable nonsectarian representative syrian government that is addressing the needs of its people through political processes and peaceful processes. we're not taking sides in a
religious war between shi'a and sunni. really what we're trying to do is take sides against extremists of all sorts and in favor of people who are in favor of moderation, tolerance, representative government and over the long term stability and prosperity for the people of syria. and so my goal -- we've been supporting an opposition. we've been trying to help the opposition along with our international partners help the opposition become more cohesive. we've been assisting not only the political opposition but also the military opposition so that there's a counterweight that can potentially lead to political negotiations with the evidence of chemical weapons. what we've said is we're going to ramp up that assistance and my hope continues to be, however, that we resolve this through some sort of political transition. but what's been clear is is that
assad at this point-- in part because of his support from iran and from russia-- believes that he does not have to engage in a political transition. believes that he can continue to simply violently suppress over half of the population. and as long as he's got that mind-set it's going to be very difficult to resolve the situation there. >> rose: a couple things come out of. this clearly you had a red line and clearly you say you have confirming evidence of that. other people have raised questions as to why you didn't do it earlier. senator mccain even last week former president clinton. there's also the question as to whether you knew if you supplied weapons they would stay in the hands of people that you intended them for. have you been settled on that question that you can ship weapons and they can go to the hands of the people that you intend to benefit? >> well, first of all, charlie, i've said i'm ramping up support for both the political and military opposition. i've not specified exactly what
we're doing and i won't doe so on this show. that's point number one. point number two is that this argument that somehow we had gone in earlier or heavier in some fashion that the tragedy and chaos taking place in syria wouldn't be taking place i think is wrong. and -- >> rose: why do you think it's wrong? >> well, i think it's wrong because the fact of the matter is the way these situations get resolved are politically. and, you know, the people who are being suppressed inside of syria who developed into a military opposition, these folks are carpenters and blacksmiths and dentists. these aren't professional fighters. the notion that there was some professional military inside of syria for us to immediately support a year ago or two years ago -- >> rose: yeah, but there were former syrian generals who were
part of the free syrian army. >> there were those who were a part. but i don't think that anybody would suggest that somehow that there was a ready-made military opposition inside of syria that could somehow have quickly and cleanly defeated the syrian army or assad or overthrown it. and what is also true is that we've had to sort out and figure out exactly who it is that is in the opposition. >> rose: and you've done that now? >> well, we have deepened our relationship and we have better information about who are the moderate members of the opposition, who are members of the opposition who are affiliated with al nusra, who are affiliated with al qaeda, who are coming in from iraq or yemen or pakistan or afghanistan. and one of the challenges that we have is that some of the most
effective fighters within the opposition have been those who, frankly, are not particularly friendly toward the united states of america. and arming them willy-nilly is not a good recipe for meeting american interests over the long term. the last point i'd make on this is, you know, a lot of critics have suggested that if we go in hot and heavy-- no-fly zones, setting up humanitarian corridors and so forth. >> rose: heavy artillery. >> heavy artillery. that that offers a simpler solution. but the fact is 90% of the deaths that have taken place haven't been because of air strikes by the syrian air force. the syrian air force isn't particularly good. they can't aim very well. it's been happening on the ground. >> rose: so you think a no-fly zone is not necessary? >> what i'm saying is that if you haven't been in the situation room poring through
intelligence and meeting directly with our military folks and asking what are all our options and examining what are all the consequences and understanding that, for example, if you set up a no-fly zone that you may not be actually solving the problem on the ground or if you set up a humanitarian corridor are you, in fact, committed not only to stopping aircraft from going over that corridor but also missiles? and if so does that mean that you then also have to take autothe armaments in damascus? and are you then prepared to bomb damascus? and what happens if there's civilian casualties? and have we mapped all of the chemical weapons facilities inside of syria to make sure we don't drop a bomb on a chemical weapons facility that end up then dispersing chemical weapons and killing civilians, which is exactly what we're trying to prevent. unless you've been involved in those conversations then it's kind of hard for you to understand the complexities of the situation and how we have to
not rush into one more war in the middle east. and we've got -- >> rose: but that's why people think you're hesitant. because you do not want to get involved in another conflict having extricated the united states from iraq and also soon from afghanistan. >> charlie -- >> rose: that the idea of another conflict and getting involved in a war that has real significant sunni/shi'a implications and could explode into the region, you want no part of that. even though there has been a turn in the tide in syria with the assad regime and the assad army with the help of hazard doing better. >> charlie, that shouldn't just be my concern, that should be everybody's concern. we went through that. we know what it's like to rush into a war in the middle east without having thought it through. and there are elements within the middle east who see this
entirely through the prism of a shi'a/sunni conflict and want the united states to simply take the side of the sunnis and that i do not think serves american interests. as i said before, the distinction i make is between extremists and those who are -- recognize in a 21st century world that the way the middle east is going to succeed is when you have governments that meet the aspirations of their people, that are tolerant, that are not sectarian. and working through that is something that we have to do in deliberate fashion. so when i hear debates out there on the one hand folks saying, you know, katie, bar the door, let's go in and knock out syria. >> rose: they're not asking that. it seems to me what they're asking is, you know, supply them with heavy artillery. >> but here's what happens, charlie. it's very easy to slip-slide
your way into deeper and deeper commitments because if it's not working immediately then what ends up happening is six months from now people say "well, you gave the heavy artillery, now what we really need is x. and now what we really need is y. " because until assad is defeated-- in this view-- it's never going to be enough. on the other side there are folks who say "we are so scard from iraq, we should have learned our lesson, we should not have anything to do with it." i reject that view as well because the fact of the matter is we've got serious interests there and not only humanitarian interests, we can't have a situation of ongoing chaos in a major country that borders a country like jordan which in turn borders israel and we have a legitimate need to be engaged and to be involved. but for us to do it in a careful, calibrated way.
sometimes it's unsatisfying because what people really typically want is a clean solution, a silver bullet, here's what we're going to do and we just move forward. well, that's not unfortunately -- >> rose: you do not accept the idea that if you do what the rebels want you do, the free syrian army wants you to do and what arab governments want you do that it would turn the tide and lead to assad leaving, which has been, i think, your objective. >> well, my objective, understand, is assad leaving because he delegitimized himself by what he did to his people. my genuine objective, though, is a syria that is functioning and is representative. and is not engaged in sectarian civil war. and, you know, represents all factions within syria. that's my objective. and i believe that it is important for us to support a legitimate, credible opposition
that might usher in that day. but any notion that somehow we're just a few anti-helicopter or tank weapons away from tipping in that direction i think is not being realistic analyzing the situation on the ground. >> rose: but i understand dennis mcdonough on "face the nation" suggesting there may be more coming. >> what is true is that i will preserve every option available to me and continually make assessments about what's in the interests of the united states. >> rose: does this mean that what the possibility that senator kerry had been working on for some conference in govern has been delayed because of this decision by you? >> what it means is that we have not yet seen a serious commitment on the part of both the assad regime and and the russians to deliver on what was in the original geneva
communique which said that we would put in place a political transition process that would lead to a genuine transfer of power. and until we see a commitment for a serious negotiation as opposed to just stalling tactics i don't want assad to have comfort in thinking that he can simply continue to kill people on the ground, not engage politically and that at some point the international community loses focus. >> rose: okay. but were you concerned that the tide seemed to have turned for assad with the help of hazard and that he was making victories that would enable him to achieve some turn in the way the war was perceived and you felt the urgency to act? >> i felt concern both about the
lack of progress on the political track. i felt that we had done better preparatory work in identifying and working with opposition figures. and what we saw was clear evidence that we have high confidence in and that we will with our allies be presenting to -- before the united nations that, in fact, the assad regime has used chemical weapons. >> rose: let me go to china. last week at this time you were meeting with the president of china, xi jinping. what came out of that? >> well, you know, this was an unconventional summit. we did it outside of the white house. first time a chinese president, i think, had been outside of a formal state visit. >> rose: did it make things better? the informality of it? >> what it allowed for i think is a more honest conversation.
my impression of president xi is that he has consolidated his position fairly rapidly inside of china. that he is younger and more forceful and more robust and more confident perhaps than some leaders of the past. and the discussions were very useful, for example, on a problem like north korea. we've seen the chinese take more seriously the problem of constant provocation and statements from the north koreans rejecting denuclearization and they've been acting on it in ways in the past they would try to paper over the tensions and kind of push those problems aside. what we're seeing, i think, an interest and a willingness to engage with us in a strategic conversation around those
things. you know, what i wanted to underscore and establish with him is the kind of relationship that recognizes it is in china's interests and the united states' interests for relationship to work. that both leaders would be betraying their people if a healthy competition-- largely economic-- degenerated into serious conflict. china's got, obviously, continues to have enormous potential but they've also got big challenges. >> rose: they just announced a challenge that they have to move people from the rural areas to the cities today. >> they've got a hundred million people who live in extreme poverty. meaning they're making two bucks a day. they've got pollution problems that are unbearable even for a rising middle-class there.
huge problems of inequality and they're going to have to rethink their economic model based on exports and refocused on domestic demand. so a series of strategic conversations that they're about to make and they values to think about how are they operating with their neighbors as they continue to rise? because what we've seen is is that as we get bigger the folks around them get more nervous. >> rose: right. >> around maritime issues, for example, in the south china sea. we've seen smaller countries like vietnam and the philippines feel very nervous about china's behavior. so part of the conversation with president xi is to say that as a rising -- we want to encourage you to -- continue your peaceful rise. but as a rising power you have now responsibilities. and it is in your interests to partner with us and other countries to set up international rules of the road
-- >> rose: and their response to that in the words of robert zell leg to the chinese, "you have to be a stakeholder now." >> you have to be a stakeholder. >> rose: and are they responsive to that? are think thinking we can be almost a kind of g-2? >> well, obviously there are a lot of countries around the world who are significant regionally and internationally. but we've talking about the two biggest economies in the world. we have to get this relationship right and china does need to be a stakeholder and i think they recognize that but, look, but they have achieved such rapid growth and grown so fast, almost on steroids that there's a part of them that still thinks of themselves as this poor country that's got all these problems. the united states is the big cheese out there trying to
dictate things, perhaps trying to contain our rise. so i think what you're seeing is maybe the desire to continue not to be responsible, not to be a full stakeholder, work the international system on something like trade or intellectual property rights. get as much as they can and be free writers and let the united states worry about the big hassles and problems. at the same time, a growing nationalist pride where they say we're big, too, and we should be seen as equals on the world stage and what we're saying to them is you can't pick and choose. you can't have all the rights of a major world power but none of the responsibilities. and if you accept both i think you will have a strong partner in the united states. so i'm ott mistic about the future but what i've found working with the chinese government is candor, being clear about american values, pushing back when the chinese
are trying to take advantage of us. >> rose: speaking of pushing back, what happened when you pushed back on the question of hacking and serious allegations that come from this country that believe the chinese are making serious strides and hacking not only private sector but public sector? >> we had a very blunt conversation about cyber security. >> rose: do they acknowledge it? >> when you're having a conversation like this i don't think you ever expect a chinese leader to say "you know what? you're right." >> rose: (laughs) you got me. you got me. >> "we're stealing all your stuff and everyday we try to figure out how we can get into apple --" >> rose: but do they say "look? you're doing the same thing. we've been reading about what n.s.a. is doing and you're doing the same thing and there are some allegations of that. and the man now unleashing these secrets is in hong kong and may be talking to the chinese. >> well, let's separate out the
n.s.a. issue which i'm sure you're going to want to talk to and the whole balance of privacy and security with the specific issue of cyber security and our concerns -- >> rose: and cyber warfare and espionage. >> right. every country in the world large and small engages in intelligence gathering and that is an occasional source of tension but is generally practiced within bounds. there's a big difference between china wanting to figure out how can they find out what my talking points are when i'm meeting with the japanese-- which is standard fare and we've tried to prevent them from penetrating that and they try to get that information. there's a big difference between that and a hacker directly connected with the chinese government or the chinese military breaking into apple's software systems to see if they
can obtain the designs for the latest apple product. that's theft. and we can't tolerate that. and so we've had very blunt conversations about this. they understand, i think, that this can adversely affect the fundamentals of the u.s./china relationship. we don't consider this a side note in our conversations. we think this is central in part because our economic relationship is going to continue to be premised on the fact that the united states is the world's innovator. we have the greatest r&d. we have the greatest entrepreneurial culture. our value added is at the top of the value chain and if countries like china are stealing that, that affects our long-term prosperity in a serious way. >> rose: it's said also the reason they do it is they want to achieve some kind of military parity at some point and that's
a motivating factor. >> i'm sure that that is. >> rose: let's turn to n.s.a. you famously talked about the -- what you called the wrong choice between security and freedom. where do you put what n.s.a. is doing in that balance between security and freedom? >> well -- >> rose: a false choice is what you called it. >> let me start with the fact that at national defense university several weeks ago when most of the focus was around the drone program and my plans in afghanistan and the need for us to move away from a perpetual war footing that i specifically said one of the things we need to debate and examine is our surveillance programs because those were set up right after 9/11, it's now been over a decade and we have to examine them. >> rose: and what should the
debate be? >> well, and what i've said and i continue to believe is that we don't have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. that's a false choice. that doesn't mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, any given action that we take. so all of us make a decision that we go through a whole bunch of security at airports which, when we were growing up that wasn't the case, right? you ran up to the gate -- >> rose: exactly. you're there. >> you're at the plane, you're running on. >> rose: been there. >> it's been a while since i went through commercial flying but i gather the experience is not the same anymore. >> rose: it is not. it's gotten worse. >> so that's a tradeoff we make. the same way we make a tradeoff about drunk driving. we say occasionally there are going to be checkpoints. they may be intrusive. to say there's a tradeoff doesn't mean somehow that we've
abandoned freedom. i don't think anybody says we're no longer free because we have checkpoints at airports. >> rose: but there is a balance here. >> but there is a balance. so i'm going to get to your question. the way i view it -- my job is both to protect the american people and to protect the american way of life which includes our privacy. and so every program that we engage in, what i've said is let's examine and make sure that we're making the right tradeoffs. now, with respect to the n.s.a., a government agency that has been in the intelligence-gathering business for a very long time. >> rose: bigger and better than everybody else. >> bigger and better than everybody else and we should take pride in that. they're extraordinary professionals dedicated to keeping the american people safe. what i can say unequivocally is that if you are a u.s. person
the n.s.a. cannot listen to your telephone calls and the n.s.a. cannot target your e-mails. >> rose: and have not? >> and have not. they can not and have not-- by law and by rule. and unless they-- and usually it wouldn't be they, it would be the f.b.i.-- go to a court and obtain a warrant and seek probable cause. the same way it's always been. the same way when we were growing up and we were watching movies, you know, you wanted to go set up a wiretap, you've got to go to a judge, show probable cause and then the judge -- >> rose: but have any of those been turned down? all the requests to fisa courts, have they been turned down at all? >> let me finish here, charlie, because i want to make sure -- this debate has gotten cloudy very quickly. >> rose: exactly. >> so point number one: if you're a u.s. person than n.s.a. is not listening to your phone
calls and it's not targeting your e-mails unless it's getting an individualized court order. that's the existing rule. there are two programs that were revealed by mr. snowden-- allegedly, since there's a criminal investigation taking place that caused all the ruckus. program number one called the 2015 program. what that does is it gets data from the service providers-- like a verizon-- in bulk. and basically you have call pairs. you have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. there are no names, there's no content in that database. all it is is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. so that database is sitting there.
now, if the n.s.a. through some other sources-- maybe through the f.b.i., maybe through a tip that went to the c.i.a., maybe through the n.y.p.d.-- gets a number that -- where there's a reasonable articulatable articue suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to al qaeda and some other international terrorist actors-- then what the n.s.a. can do is it can query that database to see does this number pop up. did they make any other calls. and if they did those calls will be spit out, a report will be produced, it will be turned over to the f.b.i. at in no point is any content revealed because there's no content in the database. >> rose: so i hear you saying i have no problem with what n.s.a. has been doing. >> well, let me finish.
because i don't. so what happens is then the f.b.i.-- if, in fact, it now wants to get content, if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone-- it's got to go to the fisa court with probable cause and ask for a warrant. >> rose: but has fisa court turned down any request? >> because -- first of all, charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small, number one. number two, folks don't go with a query unless they've got a pretty good suspicion. >> rose: should this be transparent in some way? >> it is transparent, that's why we set up the fisa court. the whole point of my concern before i was president -- because some people say obama was this rave liberal before, now he's dick cheney. dick cheney sometimes says, yeah, he took it all lock stock and barrel. my concern has always been not that we shouldn't do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism but rather are
we setting up a system of checks and balances? so on this telephone program you have a federal court with federal judges overseeing the entire program and you've got congress overseeing the program. not just the intelligence committee, not just the judiciary committee but all of congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works. now one last point i want to make because you hear people say "okay, we have no evidence that it has been abused so far." and they say "let's even grant that obama's not abusing it. there are all these processes, tko *epblg is examining it, it's been audited, renewed periodically, et cetera. the very fact that there's all this data in bulk it has enormous potential for abuse." they'll say "when you look at metadata even if you don't know the names you can match it up,
there's a call to an oncologist and a lawyer and you can figure out maybe this person is dying and they're writing their will and you can yield this information. all of that is true. except for the fact for the government under the program to do that it would be illegal. we would not be allowed to do that. >> rose: so are you going to issue any kind of instructions to the director of national intelligence, mr. clapper, and say "i want you to change it at least in this way"? >> here's what we need to do. but before i say that-- and i know we're running out of time but i want to make sure i get very clear on this because there's been a lot of misinformation out there-- there's a second program called the 702 program. and what that does is that does not apply to any u.s. person has to be a foreign entity, it can only be related to counterterrorism, weapons proliferation, cyber hacking or attacks and a select number of identifiers, phone numbers,
e-mail, et cetera, those and the process has all been approved by the courts, you can send to providers the yahoo!s or googles and what have you the same way you present a warrant and what will happen is you can obtain content but that does not apply to u.s. persons and it's only in these very narrow bands. so you asked what should we do. >> rose: right. >> what i've said is that what is a legitimate concern, legitimate kreut stich that because these are classified programs, even though we have all these systems of checks and balances, congress is overseeing it, federal courts are overseeing it, despite that the public may not know and that can make the public nervous because they say, well, obama says it's okay or congress says it's okay i don't know who this judge is, i'm nervous about it. what i've asked the intelligence community to do is see how much
of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, number one. ander in that process of doing that so now. so everything i'm describing to you today, the public, newspapers, et cetera, can look at because frankly people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked they're not getting the complete story. number two, i've stood up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board made up of independent citizens, including some fierce civil libertarians. i'll be meeting with them and what i want to do is set up and structure a national conversation not only about the these two programs but also about the general problem of these big data sets. because this is not going to be restricted to government entities. >> rose: let me just ask you this: if someone leaks all this information about n.s.a. surveillance-- as mr. snowden did-- did it cause national
security damage to the united states and therefore should he be prosecuted? >> i'm not going to comment on prosecutions. >> rose: okay. >> he -- the case has been referred to the d.o.j. for criminal investigation. >> rose: and possible extradition. >> and possible extradition. i will leave it up to them to answer those questions. >> rose: so what's your fear about this? >> look, we have to make decisions about how much classified information and how much covert activity we are willing to tolerate as a society. and we could not have carried off the bin laden raid if it was on the front page of papers. i think everybody understands that. >> rose: of course that, but i don't want to say what the relevance of that is. >> well, the reason i'm saying that is that we're going to have to find ways where the public
has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place. that they have enough information about how we operate. that they know that their phone calls aren't being listened into, their text messages aren't being monitored, their e-mails aren't being read by some big brother. they have to feel that confidence and that it's not subject to abuse because there's sufficient checks and balances on it while still preserving our capacity to act against folks who are trying to do us harm. and it's not just terrorists. we already talked about cyber theft. we already talked about potentially critical infrastructure that could be compromised. you know, there were a handful of yolk -les up in new york who stole $45 million out of a.t.m.s over the course of i think it was 18 hours and the public expects me and the justice department and others to protect them from those things. to make sure that theirback accounts aren't being compromised, their medical records aren't being
compromised. all that stuff requires the government to have some capacity to engage with the private sector. >> rose: and we ought to have a debate about it all. >> so we have to have a debate about it. >> rose: let me turn to a number of things. before i do, though, the notion of -- that you have simply continued the policies of bush/cheney. does it -- how do you -- how does that make you feel? how do you assess it? because many people say, you know, you're bush/cheney light then people write columns saying, "no, no, he's not that at all! he's tougher in terms of drones, in terms of surveillance, in terms of many things. guantanamo bay." >> well, look. i haven't yet closed guantanamo so one of the things you learn as president is "what have you done for me lately?" if you didn't get it done, it's your problem and i accept that. that's my job. so ideal i close guantanamo bay, they're right. i haven't closed guantanamo bay. when it comes to -- >> rose: drones? >> when it comes to drones i
gave an entire speech on this and what i have said is-- and this is absolutely true-- that we have put in place a whole series of measures that are unprecedented and we will continue to do so. we ended enhanced interrogation techniques. we ended some of the depension policies that had been in place that violated our values. there are a whole range of checks and balances that we put in place. but i think it's fair to say that there are going to be folks on the left and-- you know, what amuses me is folks on the right who were fine when it was a republican president but now obama's coming in with a black helicopter. >> rose: politics makes strange bedfellows, doesn't it? >> who are not yet going to be satisfied, i've got to tell you, though, charlie, generally i think this is a healthy thing. because it's a sign of maturity that this debate would not have been taking place five years
ago. and i welcome it. i really do. because i -- because i -- contrary to what i think some people think the longer i'm in this job the more i believe on the one hand that most folks in government are trying to do the right thing. they work really hard, they're dedicated. >> rose: but you are frustrated -- >> but let me say this. that's on the one hand. on the other hand what i also believe is, you know, it's useful to have a bunch of critics out there who were checking government power and who were making sure that we're doing things right so that if we triple checked how we're operating, let's go quadruple check it. and i'm comfortable with that and glad to see that we are starting to do that. the within thing people should understand about these programs is they have disrupted plots. not just here in the united states but overseas as well. you have a guy like najibullah
sa *z zi who was driving across country trying to blow up a new york subway system. we might have caught him some other way. we might have disrupted it because a new york cop saw he was suspicious. maybe he turned out to be incompetent and the bomb didn't go off. but at the margins we are increasing our chances of preventing a catastrophe like that through these programs and then the question becomes can we trust all the systems government enough, as long as they're checking each other, that our privacy is not being abused but we are able to prevent some of the tragedies that, unfortunately, there are people out there who are going to continue to try to strike against us. >> rose: we've talked mostly about national security and we've talked about the responsibilities around the world and you certainly indicated by the last answer that the number-one
responsibility of a president is national security to keep the american people safe. >> right. >> rose: correct? >> well it's my number-one priority because if i don't get right we don't get anything right. i will say, though, that i think the biggest challenge we face right now in addition to the ongoing challenge of national security is having recovered from the worst recession since the great depression having dug our way out with the economy now growing, jobs being created, auto industry back, stock market back, housing recovering by about 10% in terms of prices, how do we now go back to the issue that led me to run for president in the first place? which is the fact that the economy is not working for everybody, that we have the structural problems that could
lead us to second-rate status if they continue. >> rose: the level of debt and all that. >> well, here's what i would say. number one we've got to make sure that we have an education system that is meeting the challenge of the 21st century. number if, that we've got a great infrastructure. number three that our lead in research and development continues. number four that we are ensuring that we've got a tax code that's sensible and allows us to grow. and number five, in addition to deficits and a stable fiscal system that we also have a country where the idea that anybody can make it if they work hard and that there are ladders of opportunity and a middle-class is growing, that that continues. one of the biggest challenges that i see-- along with some things like climate change, by the way, that we haven't had
time to talk about so far-- is the fact that we have recovered from the worst of the crisis but the underlying problem-- which is growing inequality, wages and incomes stagnant or even going down in some cases for middle-class families, that trend line has continued. it's not unique to america, we're seeing it worldwide, it's partly because of globalization, partly because of technology. we've got to address that if we are going to continue to be the greatest nation on earth. and that is the thing that i'm going to be focused on for the remainder of my presidency, along with the basics like making sure nobody blows us up. >> rose: some people would like to see you announce that you are reappointing ben bernanke as chairman of the fed. >> well, i think ben bernanke's done an outstanding job. ben bernanke's a little bit like bob mueller, the head of the f.b.i. >> rose: yes. >> where he's already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he
was supposed to. >> rose: but if he wanted to be reappointed you would reappoint him? >> he has been an outstanding partner along with the white house in helping us recover much stronger than, for example, our european partners from what could have been an economic crisis of epic proportions. >> rose: i'm at the end of my time but i do take this opportunity to say happy father's day. you're off to a recital by sasha or malia, i'm not sure which one. >> sasha. she's the dancer in the family. >> rose: and you have spoken well about father hood and what it means and the absence of having a father has given you a sense of appreciation of what a father can mean to the life of children and i thank you for taking time on this day to share
a conversation about the country. >> rose: well, i appreciate it very much, charlie. >> thank you so much, thanks. great to see you. a footnote to my interview with the president on sunday. when he came into the room i mentioned to him i just had the irish author column mckahnn talking about his new book "transatlantic." i thought the president would be interested because the book in part is about frederick douglass who went on a speaking trip to ireland in 1845 and because it is in part about george mitchell after negotiating peace in northern ireland. obviously the president knows the work of cullum mccann and the life of frederick douglass. having said that-- surprise, surprise and assume nothing connection between our conversation and his speech-- here's what the president said today in belfast. >> all of you, every single young person here today possess something the generation before yours did not and that is an example to follow. when those who took a chance on
peace got started they didn't have auk saysful model to emulate, they didn't know how it would work but they took a chance. but so far it's succeeded and the first steps are the hardest and requires the most courage. the rest now is up to you. peace is indeed harder than war. the irish arthur cullum mccann recently wrote that. and its constant fragility is part of its beauty. a bullet need happen only once but for peace to work we need to be reminded of its existence again and again and again. and that's what we need from you. that's what we need from every young person in northern ireland and that's what we need from every young person around the
world. you must remind us of the existence of peace. the possibility of peace. you have to remind us of hope again and again and again. despite resistance, despite setbacks. despite hardship, despite tragedy. you have to remind us of the future. again and again and again. i have confidence you will choose that path. you will embrace that task. and to those who choose the path of peace i promise you the united states of america will support you every step of the way. we will always be a wind at your back and as i said when i visited two years ago, i am
convinced that this little island that inspire it is biggest of things, this little island, its best days are yet ahead. >> rose: so appropriately, we hope, we conclude this hour with the president with part of my conversation with cullum mccann. what does it mean to be irish? >> that's the original question, that's what we're asking ourselves all along. i mean i suppose what it is -- obviously we have this ancient and deep history. we have an ability to sing, an ability to tell the story, an ability, i suppose, to live our lives outloud and i quite like that. and the irish go everywhere and we seem to embrace a lot of different experiences. also we have that sort of lurking sadness around. i know you used to interview frank mccourt and frank had all of that. he had that big brawling enthusiasm for the world and at the same time you could always tell there that there's
something behind there that recognizes history, difficulty and we're sort of together as a nation. it's good to be over here and to be irish, actually. >> rose: i never missed interviewing an irishman or an irish woman. for example, i just had graham mcdowell from northern ireland, the great golfer. >> fantastic golfer. >> rose: fantastic golfer! there are three story lines here. one is fred lick douglass. why was he interesting? in 1845 he went to ireland on a lecture tour. >> i only learned about this story a few years ago and i thought that's incredible, frederick douglass, the great abolitionist still a slave in 1845 takes a ship, he's not allowed to go first class even though he has enough money to pay first class, takes a ship and lands in dun leery in the port in dublin. --z i thought wow, a plan man going to ireland in 1845, what was that like? he was taken in by the establish
and the anglo irish and they took him all around the country where he gave these fantastic lectures to great halls of people. met daniel o'connell, our great liberator. however, a huge crisis of conscience for him-- and i think this is where the story becomes really profound and pwaouf and contradictory and where fiction can enter it-- at the same time the famine was unfolding in our country and he saw worse poverty than he'd ever seen in the south and the three million people enslaved in america he thought, well, the irish had it much worse off. so his dilemma was do i speak out on behalf of the poor irish when my hosts are the ones who are sort of holding this undemocratic moment in place or do i cleave to my people? and i was annoyed at him because publicly he didn't speak out on
behalf of the poor irish. at first i was annoyed then i realized what a beautiful gesture it was to his own history and his own people and also that he can't hold a million -- he can't take on the conscience of the whole world. douglass was a most incredible person. douglass and mitchell both. he spoke out on behalf of woman's rights a hundred years before anybody else. he gave birth to the civil rights movement over here and he was fantastic and what he did in ireland was profound, too.